To her, a “video game” already meant something different that had nothing to do with learning anything of obvious use. I was pretty much okay with it, so we played Super Mario Odyssey over and over again until she could reliably run and jump and figure out that Mario had to save Princess Peach from Bowser. Over time, she learned that Mario had a brother named Luigi and Bowser had a son named Bowser Jr.
Her interest in the larger Mario universe led her to demand that we purchase a Super Mario chess set that she saw in Target. Now she can skillfully move Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, and Yoshi around the set, which I guess means that a video game – or at the very least video game branding – has offered an opportunity. educational.
I don’t really believe in the supremacy of some games over others. Chess may be considered a healthier activity than saving Princess Peach from Bowser, but I have known many more degenerate chess players in my life than video game addicts. What was exciting was not so much that my daughter was learning a more intellectual game but that she had developed a taste for games, period.
Throughout the pandemic, we have played and completed Luigi’s Mansion 3, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Bowser’s Fury, Yoshi’s Crafted World, and Snipperclips. The only game we’ve played that I didn’t like is Alba, which involves a kid trying to save endangered animals on a Mediterranean island. I discovered, like my daughter, that the intrusion of a supposedly important message ruins the experience.
When we play these games, she is fully engaged and asks about the stories, which I admit are silly, but most children’s stories are silly. When she solves a puzzle in a game or defeats a boss, her face lights up with the same satisfaction and confidence that she displayed when she learned to ride a bike without training wheels or when she found out how to cross the monkey bars. These moments are digitally inspired, yes, but I’m not sure why that means they’re worth less.
But more importantly, video games have become something that we do together. We now play them a few nights a week. For Halloween this year my wife and I dressed up as Princess Peach and Bowser and our daughter went as Mario. She became what the kids in my second grade class might have called a Nintendo monster, although I imagine the kids of her generation are all Nintendo monsters.
My experience with video games, of course, is just my experience. There may be children who fall into addictive patterns – several years ago the World Health Organization added “gambling disorderâAs a behavioral addiction to his list of illnesses – and my own listless way of playing games certainly shouldn’t be the pattern of anyone’s life. But we’ve now gone through nearly 50 years of video game scares and the evidence has never quite justified it, unlike Koop’s prediction. Some scholarships has even highlighted the cognitive and social benefits of many video games.